Creative leftovers means they aren’t really ‘leftovers’ (updated)

There seems to be a negative connotation to the idea of leftovers. It’s not fresh food. It’s the food no one wanted when it was newly cooked. Leftovers are not as pretty as the dish when it’s first made, but my experience is that a lot of food tastes better the next day. This is true for most Italian food, chili, enchiladas and most casseroles. It’s as though it gives the spices and flavors time to blend and really flourish.

For some reason, my mom’s creativity with leftovers has always stuck in my mind as a great childhood memory. I don’t know if the food qualified as “leftover” considering I know she always made enough of the original dishes to make the new dishes in the following days. This is a great idea for families, especially if it involves kids (or adults!) who don’t like to eat the same thing day after day.

Spaghetti pie before it goes in the oven.

Spaghetti becomes spaghetti pie

One such dish is my mom’s spaghetti pie. I don’t remember now if we usually had spaghetti first then spaghetti pie or if it was the other way around. But either way, for some reason spaghetti pie seemed to be so different from regular old spaghetti. Really, the only difference is how it’s prepared and the addition of the cottage cheese. Otherwise, it’s all sauce, noodles and meat. It was a smart way for my mom to be able to make a bunch of the same food all at once and use it for several different meals.

Pot roast becomes goulash

We all love pot roast made with carrots and cut up potatoes. Usually with celery, onions and some kind of spices. There’s something homey, delicious and just yummy about this time-honored dish.

What’s even better is the goulash we would have a day or two later. At least that’s what we called it. I’m learning as an adult that goulash seems to be a generic term for anything from a casserole to a hodge podge like what we had.

Carrots, pot roast and potatoes are an amazing dinner that can be sautéed together later to make a completely different dish. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Shoshanah)

My mom would cut up the pieces of the leftovers into bite size chunks and usually add peas. She would then cook it all in a skillet or a pan or whatever with I think barbecue sauce for a little zing. I remember one time I made it myself and thought it was supposed to all be mashed up together. That made it look like really thick and disturbing baby food. I suggest just sauteing in the BBQ sauce!

Other leftover ideas

John and I were talking about this topic one time and there’s all kinds of other ideas one can do with leftovers. Apparently he would make sandwiches with Thanksgiving leftovers. They would take the turkey and pile on cranberry jelly, gravy, mashed potatoes and stuffing. All between two pieces of bread. As disgusting as that sounds, I’ve tried it and it’s actually pretty good. Very, very starchy, but very good! It’s a weird mix of sweet and savory.

Other ideas for leftovers obviously include sandwiches and soups. Meatloaf is one of my favorite things to have as leftovers because it makes great sandwiches and it’s yummy crumbled up in macaroni and cheese. Leftover chicken or turkey is great for soups, enchiladas and many more dishes!

Here’s an idea

Wondering what to do with your leftovers? Try using recipe sites like that let you enter the ingredients you have and it gives you ideas for what you can make using those ingredients.

So what creations have you made (or your mom) from leftovers? Share recipes or ideas! 


3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I kind of like the idea of Spaghetti Pie. We don’t ever have spaghetti leftover because it’s the kids’ favorite meal…maybe I’ll cook extra just to make the pie. Do you just mix in the cottage cheese and top it with sauce and cheese? Or is there another step in there?

    1. I am on my phone or I would link it. The link to the spaghetti pie recipe is hyperlinked in the leftovers blog or you can search my blog for spaghetti pie. It is a favorite! As kids we preferred beef now John and I like Italian sausage.

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